During his initial flurry of cinematic success, Jean-Luc Godard had ideas in his head. Ideas for movies he wanted to make. Tons of them. During this perpetual intellectual hurricane, he had the thought of putting the greatest living writer on earth in one of his movies. Who was this writer back in the spring of 1962? None other than your favorite and mine, the Mississippi Mystic, the Noble Nobelman, the Yoknapatawpha Yahoo himself, Mr. William Cuthbert Faulkner.
Movie star good looks.
Wow! He wanted the movie’s starring role for his wife, Anna Karina; here’s a note he wrote some producer back then:
[the film would star] Anna herself, Anna, who is an actress and who arrives in New York. She goes to see Gene Kelly and she says to him, “I am a French actress, I admire you, can’t you find me some work?” Finally, it’s the discovery of America by this girl, from within seven or eight great genres of the American cinema. Then Gene Kelly says, “But no, my little girl, the musical comedy is finished, the great stage at MGM no longer exists.” Then they go into the street and it becomes a little bit musical. Then, I don’t know what, she needs money, she steals money, she meets people and it becomes a criminal episode. I would have wanted, for example, for her to get hired as a maid, or a gardener, or whatever, by Faulkner.
Alas, William Faulkner died that summer, before the project ever got anywhere. But don’t cry for Mississippi Bill. He did get to have his day in Hollywood, writing some movies for money. He personally didn’t give a damn about movies and was only there for the paycheck, but he did get to jab a literary stick in Hemingway’s bleary drunken eye when he turned his piece of shit novella To Have and Have Not into a pretty decent movie which starred Humphrey Bogart and his soon-to-be wife Lauren Bacall.
So William Faulkner could’ve starred in a Godard movie. I get giddy just thinking of it. Would Faulkner be nervous in front of the camera? Visibly drunk? An acting revelation? Who knows what would’ve happened, but it’s fun to think about. And even though this one never made it out of the bullpen, it’s nice to know that the idea was there. While an artist will be judged mostly on his completed works, sometimes I think we need to give the “interesting idea” its proper due as well. Nobody else came up with this, and I guarantee that every producer who came across Godard’s note emphatically said some version of “Wow! What a _______ idea!”